Ukraine: Vitaly Alkeseenko is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally

Poster for the statement in support of conscientious objector Vitaly Alekseenko

Below is a statement by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) which WRI endorses. Together with EBCO, we call on the Ukrainian Government to release conscientious objector Vitaly Alekseenko immediately and unconditionally.

The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) strongly denounces the imprisonment of 46-year-old Christian conscientious objector Vitaly Alkeseenko on 23 February 2023 in the Ivano-Frankivsk pretrial detention center, following his conviction to one-year imprisonment sentence for refusing call up to the military on conscientious grounds.

“The imprisonment of Alekseenko is a blatant violation of his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, guaranteed under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is non-derogable in time of public emergency, according to Article 4.2 of ICCPR. Vitaly Alkeseenko is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally, with all charges against him dropped”, EBCO’s President Alexia Tsouni stated today.

EBCO reminds the Ukrainian government that they should safeguard the right to conscientious objection to military service, including in wartime, fully complying with the European and international standards, amongst others the standards set by the European Court of Human Rights. Ukraine is member of the Council of Europe and needs to continue to respect the European Convention of Human Rights. As now Ukraine becomes candidate to join the European Union, it will need to respect the Human Rights as defined in the EU Treaty, and the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice, which include the right of conscientious objection to military service.

"I told the court I agree that I have broken the law of Ukraine," Alekseenko told Forum 18 from Ivano-Frankivsk after the appeal hearing, "but I am not guilty under the law of God. I want to be honest to myself." He added that had he repented of his "crime", both the lower and the appeal court would have given him a suspended sentence.

On 18 February 2023 a cassation complaint was submitted to the Supreme Court, but Alekseenko will have to wait behind bars for suspension of sentence for the time of consideration of the complaint. It will or will not happen after opening of the cassation proceedings, it may take a month or longer. Then consideration of cassation could take half a year or longer.

EBCO underlines that his conviction occurs in the context that Ukraine has suspended the right of conscientious objection in the current emergency and call for the relevant policy to be immediately reversed. EBCO strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and calls on all soldiers not to participate in hostilities and on all recruits to refuse military service. EBCO denounces all the cases of forced and even violent recruitment to the armies of both sides, as well as all the cases of persecution of conscientious objectors, deserters and non-violent anti-war protestors.

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